To celebrate the inaugural National Women in Engineering Day on 23 June 2014, the IOM3 Women In Materials Group arranged the event ‘Engineering Success’.
Dr Bernie Rickinson, Chief Executive of IOM3 welcomed the diverse audience and wished the Women in Engineering Society a happy 95th birthday. He said that, from his own experiences, within an engineer or technologist there’s usually a creative person trying to get out and that “we are often in danger of constructing a wall of detailed understanding which hides creative and innovative talent”.
Dr Irene Turner, Chair of the Women in Materials Group, briefly explained the creation of the group and its subsequent events across the UK. She said, “looking around the room, we’ve definitely achieved our aim of raising the profile of women”.
Dame Sue Ion, Chair of NIRAB, was first up to the plinth. Sue was tasked with the challenge of condensing her remarkable career into a 20-minute talk. Sue highlighted that her interest for science began in the classroom, prompted by an ambitious teacher who encouraged his pupils to try different things. Her inspiring talk noted that she had never suffered any setbacks by being a female and she encouraged women to pursue careers in engineering and have the confidence to go for the top spots. She said, “The more women there are out there, the more we will encourage into the pipeline”.
Dr Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of BRE Group, presented a profile of the company and its impressive female employee statistics. BRE Group employees are 40% women. He highlighted some supportive changes they have made to the working environment for women who leave to have children. They are welcomed back to work with flexible working hours, and have an on-site nursery, as well as opportunities to work from home. Peter also noted the hard work that is going into recruiting apprentices at BRE.
Professor Mark Miodownik chaired the event and co-ordinated a buzzing question and answer session, which steered mostly towards helping children understand engineering and materials early on in their education. The work of the IOM3 Schools Affiliate Scheme was praised, and the audience was in agreement that visitors with materials knowledge are an asset to schools and provide the understanding needed to inspire the next generation of female engineers.